Cultural Diversity at Ethnological Museum in Chittagong

Located in the city of Chittagong, the Ethnological Museum chronicles the history of the ethnic groups of Bangladesh. The museum, which was established in 1965 and opened to the public in 1974, presents the development of the country’s various tribes from early days through to present day. It is the only museum of its kind in Bangladesh and serves an important role in promoting understanding and tolerance among people of different ethnicities. Visitors to the museum will find paintings, models, dioramas, maps, photographs and other items portraying the traditions and beliefs of the different ethnic groups.

A census report taken in 2011 revealed that there are 27 ethnic population groups in Bangladesh, with the largest group being the Chakmas, also known as the Changma. The majority of the Chakma population resides in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, although they have migrated to other parts of Bangladesh and beyond the country’s borders. They have their own distinctive language, although most can speak Bangladeshi as well, and adhere to Theravada Buddhism, while including some aspects of Hinduism in their beliefs. They are of Tibeto-Burman descent and are, therefore, related to tribes residing in the foothills of the Himalayas. Their most important festival is the Buddhist celebration of Buddha Purnima held on the full moon day of Vaisakh in the Hindu calendar in which Buddha’s birth, attainment of enlightenment and death are commemorated. Rituals include visiting the temple, lighting candles, and offering flowers to the image of Buddha.

The second largest ethnic group in the Chittagong Hill Tracts are the Marma people. With Burmese and Arakanese ancestry, the Marmas have retained much of the cultural heritage in the way they dress, as well as in their cuisine, language, music, and manner of writing in Burmese script. As followers of Theravada Buddhism, the Marmas have several festivals throughout the year with their most important being Sangrai – a celebration to welcome the New Year in line with the Buddhist lunar calendar. Among the rituals of this joyous celebration is the splashing of water on one another as a symbol of removing sorrow and purifying the soul and body.

These are just two of the many tribes represented at the Ethnological Museum. So be sure to add it to your itinerary when visiting the Chittagong region of Bangladesh.